Did Richard Rodgers Keep The Melody for “Edelweiss” From Being Used for a Hymn?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Richard Rodgers would not let the melody of “Edelweiss” be used for religious hymns.

As I mentioned in a past Musical Legends Revealed, many people mistakingly believe that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song “Edelweiss” is actually an old Austrian folk song and not an original tune written in the late 1950s. This confusion has led to some controversy when some Christian churches began performing the song (with new lyrics, of course) during the 1970s as a benediction – “May the Lord, Mighty God.”
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Did Paul Robeson Originate the Role of Joe in Show Boat?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Paul Robeson originated the role of Joe (and as a result, first sang the song “Old Man River”) in Show Boat.

One of Paul Robeson’s most famous songs is the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein song, “Old Man River.”

The song is from the 1927 musical, Show Boat, by Kern and Hammerstein.

They specifically wrote the song for Robeson, and even created the character of “Joe” in the play for him.

So the song was written specifically for Robeson (it really works beautifully for his deep voice), it’s his most famous song, so naturally, people presume he performed it for the musical Showboat.

However, he did not.
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Was There Nearly a Muppet Version of Into the Woods?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Into the Woods was almost made into a film by Jim Henson Productions.

Into the Woods was Stephen Sondheim’s second straight classic musical that had unfortunate timing on the year in which is was released. Sondheim’s previous musical, Sunday in the Park With George, ended up losing the Best Musical Tony Award to La Cage aux Folles, and Into the Woods had the misfortune to come out the same year as Phantom of the Opera.

Still, Into the Woods still held its own when it came to award season, and actually beat Phantom for the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, plus won the Tony for Best Book, Best Score and Best Lead Actress in a Musical. However, Phantom won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Into the Woods was still a commercial success, though, and it’s really one of the more crowd-pleasing of Sondheim’s musicals, except perhaps some of the downbeat aspects of the Second Act.

The musical is loosely inspired by Bruno Bettelheim’s book about fairy tales, The Uses of Enchantment…

It follows a group of various characters from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, including Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame), Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf and more than one Prince Charming.

It’s one of Sondheim’s more accessible stories, so it should not be a big surprise that it is being made into a film vy director Rob Marshall with big names stars attached to it like Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film is scheduled to come out next Christmas.

However, surprisingly enough, this modern film adaptation is far from the first attempt to turn it into a movie. But who originally wanted to do it? Jim Henson Pictures! And it was going to star Muppets!


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Did Andrew Lloyd Webber Have a Hit Dance Song About the Video Game Tetris?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Andrew Lloyd Webber had a hit dance single on the British charts in 1992 with a song about Tetris (featuring music from the video game).

Whatever else you might think of Andrew Lloyd Webber, you have to give the guy some credit for just how eclectic he has been in his pursuits.

Already famous for his musicals Evita and Cats, Webber entered a whole other stratosphere of fame when he released his musical Phantom of the Opera in 1986

Lloyd Webber was now perhaps the most famous musical composer in the world.

In 1992, he was knighted by the Queen of England (five years later, he became a Baron).

In 1992, Webber had another, perhaps less noble, distinction to his long line of distinctions – he had a top ten hit on the UK Singles chart with, of all things, a dance song!

That’s odd enough, but even better, the dance song was called….”Tetris.”
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Did Cole Porter Work On Song Lyrics While Lying Crushed Under a Horse?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Cole Porter worked on song lyrics while lying crushed underneath a horse.

Cole Porter is one of the all-time great songwriters, known for such classic songs as “Night and Day”, “I Get a Kick out of You” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” as well as the smash Broadway musicals Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate.

Porter was especially noteworthy in the sense that he was one of the few Tin Pan Alley songwriters to write the music AND the lyrics to his tunes.

Although he is a legendary music figure now, and certainly was a popular songwriter at the time, as well, Porter was not without his share of bombs. In fact, Porter (who was born in 1891)’s first two musicals in the late 1910s were both bombs. It was not until 1928 that he had a successful show on Broadway (the musical Paris, with the practically scandalous for its time hit song, “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)”).

Even after having his most popular musical, Anything Goes, in 1934, Porter followed with a string of lackluster musicals (until finally having a comeback of sorts in 1948, with Kiss Me, Kate).

One of those lackluster musicals was called You Never Know. While the musical as a whole was not one of his best, it did include one of the last GREAT songs written by Porter, the subtle and beautiful love song, “At Long Last Love.”

If Porter ever had a built-in excuse for a lackluster musical, You Never Know was it. While working on the musical in late October, 1937, Porter went horseback riding. During the ride, he was thrown from the horse. The horse then proceeded to roll over on to Porter, crushing both of his legs. Doctors first thought that he would need at least one leg amputated, but luckily, Porter was wealthy enough to get the best surgeons available, and after a ghastly THIRTY surgeries on his legs, they were able to be saved, but he would be in agonizing pain for the rest of his life. Ultimately, a few years before his death in 1964, the legs WERE amputated.

In any event, Porter claims that while he was lying there, crushed by the horse, he was in such shock that, presumably to keep his mind off of the situation, he actually began to come up with lyrics for “At Long Last Love.”

Is it true?

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Was “Edelweiss” Based on an Austrian Folk Song?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song “Edelweiss” is based on an Austrian folk song.

“Edelweiss” was the last song that Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote. In fact, he was suffering from stomach cancer as he and his partner, Richard Rodgers, worked on the song, the final addition to their latest play at the time, The Sound of Music.

The pair were looking for a song that would express the feeling of loss surrounding Captain von Trapp having to leave his native Austria because of the Nazis. They wanted a song that could be performed as a folk song since the actor portraying von Trapp, Theodore Bikel, was an accomplished folk guitarist.

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Were the Kennedys First Called “Camelot” Because of the Musical Camelot?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the musical urban legends featured so far.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: The Kennedys being referred to as “Camelot” came about directly because of the musical Camelot.

When John F. Kennedy was elected as the President of the United States in 1960, he was the youngest man ever elected President (he remains today the youngest man ever elected President). Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, and their two young children, Caroline and John Jr., were soon the most recognizable family in the United States.

In 1956, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederic Loewe debuted their classic musical, My Fair Lady, which was one of the most successful musicals of all time (and remains one of the most popular musicals ever). So their follow-up project was one of the most anticipated musicals that you could imagine. They ultimately decided on adapting T.H. White’s take on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, The Once and Future King.

Titled Camelot, the musical starred Richard Burton as King Arthur, Julie Andrews as Queen Guenevere and a young Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot. It opened in 1960, just one month after Kennedy was named the next President of the United States (the show’s run ended in January 1963).

After a bit of a false start, it was buoyed by a performance of four of the songs from the musical on the Ed Sullivan Show, leading to Camelot also becoming a rousing success.

For years, the Kennedys have been referred to as “Camelot.”

Was there a connection?

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